Disability Policy News

March 1, 2021




Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
                 March 1, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 8

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically.

COVID-19 Relief 

The House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R.1319on Saturday (219 - 211). The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to face scrutiny from Republicans and moderate Democrats. As written, the bill includes a provision to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour over the next five years and end subminimum wages, including 14(c) waivers for employees with disabilities. Due to a ruling on February 25th by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough, the $15 minimum wage and provision to end subminimum wages will not be a part of the package as Senate negotiations begin.

The budget reconciliation process requires only a simple majority of 51 votes or 50 votes and Vice President Harris's tie-breaking vote to pass the bill, as opposed to the 60 votes needed for typical legislation. A vote is expected before the current enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) expires on March 14th.

COVID-19 relief issues impacting the disability community: 



 Biden Proposal

Budget Reconciliation



Funding for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS)


Budget reconciliation includes 7.35% FMAP increase for HCBS for one year.

$9.7 billion COVID HCBS Relief Act reintroduced (H.R.525, S.151).


Adult dependents included in Economic Impact Payments



Proposal for legislation from Sen. Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Craig (D-MN).


Funding for Developmental Disabilities (DD) Network





Funding tied to individuals with Education in Disabilities Act (IDEA)



Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act (S.240).  


Plain language:

  • Congress is working to pass COVID-19 relief. The goal is to pass it in March.
What it means to you:

  • Right now, there is some funding for the disability community in the COVID-19 relief proposal. However, continued advocacy will be needed to make sure that funding is passed. Now is the time to contact your Members of Congress and tell them what you need, for example your Home- and Community-Based Services, stimulus payments, or education.
Action steps:

RX bottlePrescription drug pricing

Various state governments have considered referencing quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) to establish prescription drug prices. The use of QALYs results in discrimination against people with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions, and can impact a person's ability to access affordable medication. AUCD urges state-based advocates to send letters to your state governments explaining why QALYs are harmful to the disability community.

Plain language:

  • Quality-adjusted life years, or QALYs, are used by country and state governments to decide how much a medication should cost. But using them often results in discrimination against people with disabilities.
What it means to you:

  • State governments need to hear from you about why people with disabilities are opposed to referencing quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) in prescription drug pricing.
Action steps:

medical injection needle and calendar, black and whiteCOVID-19 Vaccine

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is unique as a one-dose shot, as opposed to the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer/BionTech shots. It can also be stored in most standard refrigerators, easing the transportation and distribution needs. The Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Janet Woodcock, completed the final step for approval on Saturday.

Plain language:

  • There is a third COVID-19 vaccine available. This vaccine will only need one shot.
What it means to you:

  • Since the new vaccine is approved, you may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine sooner. It is important to keep checking with your state's Department of Health to see when you are able to get a COVID vaccine and how.
Action steps:

Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue backgroundBiden-Harris Administration

Appointments and confirmations to staff the new administration continue. To date the following Cabinet Level positions have received Senate confirmation:

  • Secretary of the Treasury: Janet Yellen
  • Secretary of Defense: Lloyd Austin
  • Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines
  • Secretary of State: Antony Blinken
  • Secretary of Transportation: Pete Buttigieg
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas
  • Secretary of Energy: Jennifer Granholm
  • Secretary of Agriculture: Tom Vilsack
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough
Cabinet Level positions expected to receive Senate confirmations soon: 

  • Secretary of Education: Miguel Cardona
  • Attorney General: Merrick Garland
  • Secretary of Interior: Deb Haaland
  • Secretary of Labor: Marty Walsh
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Xavier Becerra 
Additional White House appointment announcements include:

  • Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, an experienced health policy staffer, as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • James Kvaal, current president of the Institute for College Access & Success, as Under Secretary of Education.

Plain language:

  • President Biden continues to appoint people who will serve our country during his administration.
What it means to you:

  • The transition creates new leaders in federal agencies. The work of these agencies will create changes in federal policy that impacts the lives of people with disabilities and their families.
Action steps:

  • Continue to follow news from the Biden Administration at whitehouse.gov.

Seal of the United States Department of Education, colorU.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education released guidance to states on assessing student learning during the pandemic. The Department is urging states to view end-of-year assessment data as helpful information for parents and educators to target resources and support, as opposed to accountability measures. The federal government advises flexibility on assessment timelines, in-person vs. remote options, and shortening state assessments when possible. The Department is also allowing states to request a waiver for the accountability and school identification requirements mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Plain language:

  • The U.S. Department of Education is helping states figure out how to test students during COVID-19. 
Action steps:

AUCD logo AUCD Disability Policy Fellowship

The application is now open for the AUCD 2021-2022 Disability Policy Fellowship. The purpose of the Fellowship is to provide significant experiences in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and AUCD administration. This is a paid full-time, one-year position beginning June 2021. The position offers a competitive salary and has the option to be located either in-person at the AUCD Silver Spring office or remote.

Applicants should submit a letter of interest explaining their reasons for wanting to become a Fellow, what they hope to get out of the fellowship, and how they plan to use the knowledge and skills gained. Please include a current resume and at least three letters of reference. A recent writing sample will be accepted but is not required. Please send all documents as attachments via e-mail only to: Rylin Rodgers, Director of Public Policy, at [email protected].

Plain language:

  • The application for the AUCD 2021-2022 Disability Policy Fellowship is now open. You need to apply by March 30th. 
Action steps:

outline of U.S. Capitol Building in blueDisability Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar and the pre-DPS events for the AUCD network will be entirely virtual this year.

  • The AUCD events will be virtual on March 19 and April 16. You may register for those free events now. 
  • Disability Policy Seminar will be April 19, 2021 to April 22, 2021. The cost to students and self-advocates is $135, and $225 for all others. Registration is now open!
The Disability Policy Seminar offers the opportunity for passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to come together and learn about key federal issues that affect them most. After a wide range of sessions offering training and learning, participants will learn how best to engage with their Members of Congress and be given opportunities to do so. You are welcome to register for both the AUCD events and the Disability Policy Seminar or for either.

Plain language:

  • The Disability Policy Seminar will be a virtual event from April 19, 2021 - April 22, 2021. You can register now!
  • The AUCD Prevents will be virtual on March 19 and April 16. You may register for those free events now.
Action steps:

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz Weintraub
Tuesdays with Liz

On this week's vintage #TWL, Liz talks with Sarah Mueller, the 2019-2020 AUCD Policy Fellow, about the Disability Policy Seminar and how to prepare for it.